The Epistle to the Hebrews
An Exposition

Adolph Saphir
(1873)

 

Introduction to American Edition

To produce a satisfactory exposition of one of the most wonderful books of the New Testament, the Epistle to the Hebrews, is no small task. More than any other Epistle this Epistle goes to the Old Testament Scriptures, the Levitical institutions, historical events, and to the Psalms, and shows from all not only the fulfillment of types, sacrifices, prophecies, but proves throughout the completeness, perfection and glory of the New Covenant. It is the Epistle of Perfection, and the Perfection which it unfolds is Jesus Christ entered into the Holy of Holies, a Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Ephesians makes known to the heart the heavenly possessions which are ours in Christ Jesus, and Hebrews bids us to enter into the Holiest of all and worship there. The Epistle looks back to the blood which was shed, and shows all accomplished through it. However, it does not linger there, but its chief aim is the place in the Highest Heavens, where He lives, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day and forever. Nor is this all. That Christ is coming again is a well known doctrine of the Word of God, and the Epistle to the Hebrews unfolds this precious Hope as many of the others do. The first and second chapters make it so clear that only one who will fully turn away from the light does not see it. The first begotten is to be brought in again into the habitable earth (1:6). The second chapter shows Him as Son of Man from the eighth Psalm, and that all things are yet to be put under His feet. Later in the Epistle we find the statement that He who was offered once, He who appears now in the presence of God for us, is to come the second time, without sin, to them that wait for Him. The exhortation in the tenth chapter (10:22-25) has for its basis the approaching of the day, and the comfort for the tried and persecuted Hebrew Christians is in the same chapter: "For yet a little while and He that shall come will come and will not tarry" (10:37).

The man who goes into this Epistle, this inexhaustible mine of God's revelation, to make known its unsearchable riches, must therefore be well furnished. He must have full grasp of the entire Old Testament Scriptures, especially the Levitical institutions. He must have heart knowledge of the Person and the Work of our Lord Jesus Christ, His work for us on the cross, His work for us in the Holy of Holies, and His future Glory. Without the knowledge of the latter the Melchizedek Priesthood of Christ (still future in its exercise), a Priest upon His throne, can hardly be understood.

Nor is this all. The Epistle was written primarily to Hebrew Christians, who were peculiarly situated, surrounded still by the shadows of a dispensation past and gone. It is almost impossible to understand certain parts of the Epistle, except the conditions and circumstances of these Hebrew Christians are understood and taken into consideration. It is here where many expositors have failed. This is especially the case with the Sixth and Tenth chapters. Arminianism has built much of its unscriptural theory of falling from Grace upon the well-known statements contained in these chapters. Many others are kept from a real enjoyment of the assurance of salvation by a misapplication of the exhortations contained in these two chapters. A correct understanding of the primary meaning makes these passages clear.

And now the man, who under God was fitted to unfold this Epistle and write a solid scriptural and spiritual exposition of it, we do not hesitate to say is Adolph Saphir.

Adolph Saphir, whose voice is no longer heard in the earth, was a Hebrew by birth. Brought up in an orthodox family, he had from childhood a good knowledge of the oracles of God committed to the Jews (Rom 3:1, 2). When quite young he was saved by Grace and the dead letter became spirit and life in him. He soon developed through the Grace of God, into the man as he has often been described, "a man mighty in the Scriptures." His "Christ and the Scriptures" and "The Divine Unity of the Scriptures" are unanswerable arguments for the verbal inspiration of the Word of God. As a Hebrew Christian he had a grasp of Scripture, and of God's purposes such as few Gentile minds acquire. His exposition of Hebrews is a masterpiece in which all the wonderful knowledge of the Scriptures given to him by the Head in Glory is brought out. It is a joy to read this book. It has a freshness about it which refreshes. It is simple, clear, its language not only interesting, but eloquent.

The exposition was delivered in form of lectures in England during 1872 and 1873. Large crowds of all denominations, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists, and others attended them, and wonderful blessing came through the lectures, which were shortly after issued in book form.

The English edition in one volume being exhausted it has been made possible to issue from the plates, imported into this country, a new edition in two volumes, and we shall not be at all surprised if the value and beauty of this exposition is once discovered, that other editions will become necessary. We bespeak a large sale for, and great blessing in the edification of the body of Christ through this work.

We like to call the attention of the reader to the introductory remarks. These ought to be carefully studied and read a number of times, for these remarks will greatly help in the understanding of the entire Epistle. In these remarks he gives a short sketch of the Epistle and dwells especially on the Jewish Christians and their situation in Jerusalem. We do not think another man has grasped so forcefully the circumstances in which these Hebrew Christians were when the Epistle was written by the Holy Spirit. He clearly shows them in their national relation, loving and hopeful, with an apostate Judaism fast ripening for its complete overthrow. They were still going to the ceremonial worship and upholding Levitical institutions. It was a transition period in which they lived. It was difficult to realize for them the new age of the church and all it meant. Thus we read in these introductory remarks:

"Surrounded by temptations of a peculiarly sifting character, tested by persecution and reproach most fitted to shake their faith and loyalty to the Messiah, rejected by the nation, the apostle speaks to them, in language of intense and piercing earnestness, of the fearful danger of apostasy, and points out to them that it was a mark of the true Israel, and a necessary sign of the follower of Jesus, to be despised and persecuted that the proper position of the God-chosen saint, of the believer, was outside the camp, bearing reproach, enduring the cross, and despising the shame."
We put the above words in italics because it seems to us they are heading up all the exhortations contained in the Epistle. After all the doctrinal statements and proofs of the greater glory of the New Covenant and the passing of the old dispensation of shadow things, the Holy Spirit exhorts to go out of the camp, to have done with earthly tabernacles and earthly ceremonies. We call attention to this because of late both in Europe and America the teaching has been given, that a believing Hebrew should even now, not sever his connection with his nation and still continue with the law of Moses and practice certain ceremonies, as well as keep the seventh day. That such a position and teaching is altogether unscriptural and untenable needs hardly to be demonstrated here. The transition period is past long ago, the new age has come and is drawing to its close, but as long as it lasts and the church is being gathered out, it is no longer to the Jew first, nor is there a distinction between Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ. The church complete and caught up to meet her Lord in the air, there will be once more a Jewish-believing remnant in the earth, which remnant is not a part of the one body, and that remnant, like the Hebrews in the transition period before the destruction of Jerusalem, will cling to the national Hope and they will not be disappointed. The believing Jew in Christ has no national Hope. His Hope is the blessed Hope of a coming Christ for His own.

Adolph Saphir brings this out very strongly in his exposition. Nor does he confine himself to the Jewish phase, but he is very pronounced against Judaistic Christendom. One of the finest and strongest passages in this exposition is the following:

"Before the coming of Jesus the shadows symbolized truth to believing worshippers. After the coming of Jesus it must fade and vanish before the substance. If this is true of the Levitical priesthood, which was of divine appointment, how much more fearful is the assumption of any priestly title, position and function during the new dispensation. All Christians are priests. To imitate a revival of that which God Himself has set aside by a fulfillment, perfect and glorious, is audacious, and full of peril to the souls of men. It is not even the shadow of a substance, but the unauthorized shadow of a departed shade"
There are a few interpretations, touching, however, none of the essential doctrines of the Bible, from which some of our readers may differ; to enter into some of these in a short preface would hardly be advisable. We fully believe, and know others share this belief with us, that Saphir on Hebrews is the best work on this Epistle in print.

Again and again in reading through the book the thought came to us how it is possible for other Hebrews to read such a sublime exposition of their Scriptures by one of their own and to remain indifferent. We hope and pray that through this new edition not only the body of Christ may be edified, but that some Hebrews may find Him of whom Moses and the Prophets speak.

May the blessing of our Lord rest upon it all.

A. C. GAEBELEIN.
80 Second Street, New York,
June, 1902.

 

Introductory Remarks

Commencing in the style of a doctrinal treatise, but constantly interrupted by fervent and affectionate admonitions, warnings, and encouragements, this grand and massive book concludes in the epistolary form, and in the last chapter the inspired author thus characterizes his work: "I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation; for I have written a letter unto you in few words" (Heb 13:22).

We are attracted and riveted by the majestic and sabbatic style of this epistle. Nowhere in the New Testament writings do we meet language of such euphony and rhythm. A peculiar solemnity and anticipation of eternity breathe in these pages. The glow and flow of language, the stateliness and fulness of diction, are but an external manifestation of the marvellous depth and glory of spiritual truth, into which the apostolic author is eager to lead his brethren. The epistle reminds us in this respect of the latter portion of the prophet Isaiah,(1) in which, out of the abundance of an enraptured heart, flows such a mighty and beautiful stream of consoling revelations. In both Scriptures we behold the glory which dwelleth in Immanuel's land; we breathe the Sabbatic air of Messiah's perfect peace. Both possess the same massiveness; both describe things which are real and substantial, the beauty and strength of which is eternal; in both is the same intensity of love, and the same comprehensiveness of vision.

The central idea of the epistle is the glory of the New Covenant, contrasted with and excelling the glory of the old dispensation; and while this idea is developed in a systematic manner, yet the aim of the writer throughout is eminently and directly practical. Everywhere his object is exhortation. He never loses sight of the dangers and wants of his brethren. The application to conscience and life is never forgotten. It is rather a sermon than an exposition. Thus he himself describes the aim of his letter, and thus the Apostle Peter, writing to the same Hebrew Christians, refers to our book when he says, "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you" (2 Peter 3:15).

In all his argument, in every doctrine, in every illustration, the central aim of the epistle is kept prominent the exhortation to steadfastness. Surrounded by temptations of a peculiarly sifting character, tested by persecution and reproach most fitted to shake their faith and their loyalty to the Messiah, rejected by the nation, the apostle speaks to them, in language of intense and piercing earnestness, of the fearful danger of apostacy, and points out to them that it was a mark of the true Israel, and a necessary sign of the follower of Jesus, to be despised and persecuted, that the proper position of the God-chosen saint, of the believer, was outside the camp, bearing reproach, enduring the cross, and despising the shame. Representing to them the awful danger of drawing back, and the glory and blessedness of the cross, he entreats them, by the whole spirit of their history, and all the mercies of Jehovah, which in Jesus find their perfect manifestation and eternal fulfillment, to hold fast the beginning of their confidence unto the end, and to continue steadfast in the faith, and wait for the joy set before them.

It is worthy of notice and thought, that when the Hebrews were in such a dangerous condition of mind, when the apostle was afraid of their yielding to the strong temptations and persecutions of the temple, so that he felt it necessary to remind them that if after being enlightened they fell away, it was impossible for them to be renewed, that the method, which he adopts in his epistle, is to enter into the depth of Christian truth, to unfold before them all the glory of the eternal High Priest and the heavenly sanctuary, to leave behind the elementary doctrine, and to launch forth into the deep ocean of New Testament mysteries.(2) Thus it appeared to apostolic wisdom, that lukewarm, languid, and tempted Christians are to be roused, strengthened, and revived. The milk of simple gospel truth was not sufficient. It was necessary to declare unto them the whole counsel of God. As in the epistle which the exalted Saviour sends unto the church of Laodicea, there is the most glorious description of the person of Jesus, and of His overflowing and tender love, as in all His seven epistles (Rev 2, 3) the self-revelation of Jesus is the basis and source of exhortation, thus in every age of the Church the renewal of strength, the rekindling of love, the deliverance from languor and inertness, bordering on death and destruction, can only proceed from a fuller and deeper knowledge of the Lord and His truth, from a renewed beholding of His countenance and of His glory. When the love of the majority shall wax cold, when iniquity shall abound, and the last struggle prepare, then let the church go on unto perfection, and behold with open face the glory of Christ; and, gazing on His brightness, she will be strong and courageous, and remain steadfast unto the end.

The circumstances in which the Hebrew believers were, at the time when this epistle was written to them, claim our attentive consideration. Perhaps Scripture is sometimes obscure to us, because we neglect the ordinary rules which are observed in the reading of uninspired books. We forget the human and historical element. We do not read consecutively and with the expectation, as well as the aim, to understand the scope and import of a whole book. And eager to arrive immediately at what we consider a practical application to our own circumstances, we do not sufficiently consider the primary meaning and bearing of the inspired Word.

The condition of the Hebrew Christians in the period of apostolic history, of which we now speak, is peculiarly difficult for Gentile believers in the present day to realise. As it was difficult for the believing Jews to realise during the transition period the new approaching age of the Church, of a body in which Jew and Gentile are united, which while different from and a contrast to the Theocracy (and yet filled with the same Spirit and glorifying the same Messiah), was to manifest its life and power apart from the law of Moses and the Jewish economy, so it is difficult for us now to think of the apostles Peter and John, and of thousands of Jews, observing the law of Moses, worshipping in the temple, and in every respect identifying themselves with the nation and her hope.

Jesus had, through suffering and death, entered into glory. Rejected by His people, He was exalted according to the promise to the right hand of God. He sent His apostles to Israel. They preached the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, and His second coming to judgment, and to establish His kingdom. They declared the gospel unto the nation, exhorting and beseeching them to turn to Jesus, who was sent first to them to bless them, by turning every one from their iniquities. Between the cross and the glory, when the Messiah would fulfil the promises unto the fathers, the apostles stood and testified to Israel. Their aim, their hearts' desire, their constant appeal, was Israel's national repentance and faith in Jesus. Thus was it becoming, and in accordance with the whole dealings of God. Thus the Saviour Himself came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, as the minister of the circumcision. Thus in the marvellous love of God another opportunity was given to Jerusalem, even after her rejection of the divine Lord. And only when the Jews rejected the counsel of God, the apostles turned unto the Gentiles. Nor was it without difficulty that they entered into the full understanding of the divine counsel, according to which for a season Israel as a nation is left to itself, and the church, in which there is neither Jew nor Greek, receives the testimony and the blessing of God (Acts 3:26, 27:25, &c.; Rom 15:8; Eph 3).

While the apostles were thus as Jews preaching Jesus to the nation, many believed in the crucified Messiah. We read that when the apostle Paul and his companions came to Jerusalem, James, who was a pillar of the church, and all the elders received them, and said unto him, "Thou seest, brother, how many thousands (murias, ten thousands) of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: and they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses" (Acts 21:20, 212). It is evident that those believing Jews observed the statutes and ordinances of the law with great zeal and earnestness. They went daily into the temple; they appeared to the ordinary Jews as most diligent and scrupulous in their obedience to the precepts of Moses. And this observance of the law did not conflict with their exclusive and explicit trust in Jesus as their Saviour. David and all the godly Israelites were saved by faith, and knew the grace of God, and righteousness without works, though it was God's will that unto them the law should be the rule and form of life (Acts 21:20, 2:46; Rom 4:6).

Nor must we be astonished, that even to these believing Jews it was difficult to receive such glimpses into the then future church dispensation as were given by the proto-martyr Stephen in his teaching about the temple, and the approaching crisis in Jewish history. After the death of Stephen, and the bitter persecution which then broke forth against the believing Jews, a lull seems to have succeeded. James, the brother of our Lord, according to tradition, revered by all the Jews as a just and devout man, Peter and John were pillars of the church at Jerusalem. Rejoicing in the work among the Gentiles, and acknowledging their freedom from the law of Moses, the apostles of the circumcision saw no reason and no right to alter the customs and observances of the Jewish believers. And the apostle Paul followed their suggestions, and showed to the Jews, both believers and unbelievers, his reverence for the law. That same apostle who, when the liberty of the Gentile Christians was concerned, and the truth of the gospel doctrine was endangered, withstood the apostle Peter, observes the law when he is among Jews; for herein he does not lose his liberty, but uses it. He became a Jew unto the Jews, as under the law, to them that were under the law; at all times and everywhere living in the love and liberty of the Son of God (Acts 15, Gal 2:14; 1 Cor 9:20-22).

Then arose another persecution of the believers, especially directed against the apostle Paul. Festus died about the year 63, and under the high priest Ananias, who favoured the Sadducees, the Christian Hebrews were persecuted as transgressors of the law. Some of them were stoned to death; and though this extreme punishment could not be frequently inflicted by the Sanhedrim, they were able to subject their brethren to sufferings and reproaches which were felt most keenly. It was a small thing that they confiscated their goods; but they banished them from the holy places. Hitherto they had enjoyed the privileges of devout Israelites; they could take part in the beautiful and God-appointed services of the sanctuary; but now they were treated as unclean and apostates. Unless they gave up faith in Jesus, and forsook the assembling of themselves together, they were not allowed to enter the temple; they were banished from the altar, the sacrifice, the high priest, the house of Jehovah.

We can scarcely realize the piercing sword which thus wounded their inmost heart. That by clinging to the Messiah they were to be severed from Messiah's people was indeed a great and perplexing trial; that for the hope of Israel's glory they were banished from the place which God had chosen, and where the divine Presence was revealed, and the symbols and ordinances of His grace had been the joy and strength of their fathers; that they were to be no longer children of the covenant and of the house, but worse than Gentiles, excluded from the outer court, cut off from the commonwealth of Israel,—this was indeed a sore and mysterious trial. Cleaving to the promises made unto their fathers, cherishing the hope in constant prayer that their nation would yet accept the Messiah, it was the severest test to which their faith could be put, when their loyalty to Jesus involved separation from all the sacred rights and privileges of Jerusalem.

The apostolic writer of the epistle enters fully and lovingly into their difficulties, and comforts them in his exhortation by showing them the unspeakably greater glory of the new covenant, in which they now stood by faith in the Saviour. Hence the subjects spoken of here are the priesthood, the sacrifice, the altar, the holy of holies. It is not, as in the epistles to the Galatians and Colossians, a question about circumcision, about things which are not lawful to eat, about ordinances "Touch not, taste not, handle not." The Sanhedrim did not, and could not, interfere with their domestic and private religious life: it is the question of their Jewish citizenship—of their connection with the temple and its services of their relation to the beloved city, and the chosen nation.

In order to establish and comfort them in this temptation, the apostle unfolds the glory of the new covenant; reminding them both of the unity and connection, and the contrast which subsists between the two dispensations.

He tells them that they are the true Israel, listening to the same God who spake of old by the prophets to the fathers, who had sent the perfect and ultimate revelation of Himself in His Son, who is Lord above all. Children of the law, which was given by the administration of angels, they were now reconciled and ruled over by the royal High Priest, whom the Father hath exalted above all principalities and powers. The disciples of Moses, who was faithful as a servant in all God's house, they were now partakers of Him who is the Lord and Master of the house, the Son, who abideth for ever. Brought into the promised land by Joshua, they had now, through faith, entered into rest, of which their history was but the shadow and imperfect type. And while the priesthood of Aaron was precious, as a picture and pattern of atonement and sympathy, Jesus was the true High Priest, who offered a perfect sacrifice, whose intercession is all-prevailing, whose compassionate love is boundless, and whose power and glory are the substantial and infinite fulfillment of the prophecy of Melchisedec. The tabernacle, with its symbols and services, was indeed glorious; but how much more glorious is the heavenly sanctuary, into which Christ has entered! and how much greater is the perfection, nearness, and liberty of worship, which He gives unto all His believers!

"We have," the apostle says so frequently, because the Hebrews imagined that they had lost treasures and blessings. Though deprived of the temple, with its priesthood, and altar, and sacrifice, the apostle reminds them, "We have" the real and substantial temple, the great High Priest, the true altar, the one sacrifice, and with it all offerings, the true access into the very presence of the Most High.

And having thus reminded them that the glory which pertaineth unto Israel (Rom 9:4) was truly and fully theirs, he exhorts them to steadfastness, and encourages them by their whole past history, throughout which for thousands of years the one golden thread of faith and the scarlet thread of reproach and suffering marked the presence of Jehovah. Nay, from the beginning of the world the true people of God were despised and persecuted. Righteous Abel believed the sacrifice, and became a sacrifice. Enoch testified to an ungodly generation. Noah was the only one who saved himself and his household. Abraham and all the patriarchs were strangers and pilgrims; they had to leave their home and kindred; they had to sacrifice what was dearest; Moses had to suffer the reproach of Christ; all your ancestors and prophets lived and suffered in faith, waiting for the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. And He who is the crown of Israel, as well as Israel's Lord, Jesus, the root and offspring of David, in whom all Israel's history culminates, the glory of the temple, the Lord of the Sabbath, the messenger of the covenant; Jesus the Lord Himself was rejected by His people, and as a malefactor, as one unworthy to live in the beloved city, He was cast outside the camp, and there He was crucified and nailed to the accursed tree. If you are the true children of Abraham, if you are the true disciples of Jesus, do not wonder that your place is also outside the camp; that you also are called to endure the cross and to despise the shame. Yet yours is even now the substance, and yours will be hereafter the joy.

Hence in this epistle the peculiarly large and full meaning of the word faith. Throughout Scripture faith means more than trust in Jesus for personal safety. This is the central point, but we must take care that we understand it in a true and deep manner. Faith, as the apostle explains in the epistle to the Corinthians, is looking at the things which are not seen and temporal; it is preferring spiritual and eternal realities to the things of time, sense, and sin; it is leaning on God and realizing His word; it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Thus every doctrine and illustration of this epistle goes straight to the heart and conscience, appeals to life, addresses itself to faith. It is one continued and sustained fervent and intense appeal to cleave to Jesus, the High Priest; to the substantial, true, and real worship; a most urgent and loving exhortation to be steadfast, patient, hopeful, in the presence of God, in the love and sympathy of the Lord Jesus, in the fellowship of the great cloud of witnesses.

Whoever is the author of this epistle, its value and authority remain the same.

"We may compare it to a painting of perfect beauty, which had been regarded as a work of Raphael. If it should be proved that it was not painted by Raphael, we have thereby not lost a classical piece of art, but gained another master of first rank."(3)
But let us see how far the supposition of the Pauline authorship meets the circumstances.

The apostle Paul, according to his own testimony, which is abundantly borne out by his life and sufferings, cherished an affection for his brethren which finds its equal only in the devotion of Moses, and was surpassed only by the Lord, from whom all love descends into human hearts. Though he rejoiced in the calling and faith of the Gentiles, his heart was continually with Israel. It was no doubt a trial to him that Christian Hebrews regarded him with something like suspicion. Much as he desired to confirm and comfort them, he could not write to them as an apostle. We see how very modestly he justifies his writing an epistle to the Romans; in the same tone the author of the epistle to the Hebrews writes, "I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation" (Heb 13:22). Hence it appears natural that the apostle Paul should sink his individuality and apostleship as much as possible, and in harmony with the key-note struck in the first verse, "God spake," be to the Hebrews as the voice of one speaking truth and comfort to them in their hour of need and trial. In the concluding chapter it is difficult not to recognize the apostle Paul. A few expressions (as Heb 2:3)(4) seem such, as could not have come from his pen,(5) and it is not unnatural to suppose that some Tertius was entrusted with more than the mere mechanical writing, with the formal and verbal arrangement of the argument.

But when we think of the depth and breadth of the epistle, when we remember the wisdom given to the apostle Paul, when we bear in mind that on this special point, the relation between the old and the new covenant, none was so fitted and gifted to teach the church as he,(6) we find it difficult to waver in our decision, especially as so many collateral proofs seem to point to the same result. We have referred already to the testimony of the apostle Peter. We notice also the concluding benediction-mark of all Pauline epistles. Neither the Epistles of Peter, or John, or Jude, or James, conclude with words like these: Grace be with you all (2 Thess 3:18). The tradition of the Church in the East, where the Epistle was first received, is unanimous in asserting the authorship of the apostle Paul. And thus we believe, that according to the word of the Lord Jesus, when He appeared unto this chosen vessel, the apostle Paul, after testifying to the Gentiles and to kings, last of all in this epistle unfolds to the children of Israel the glory of the Messiah and His kingdom. However this may be, the epistle is in full and striking harmony with all Pauline teaching; it is in full harmony with all other portions of the Scripture; for it is not the word of man, but written by inspiration of God.

It is an epistle which enters deeply into the truth as it is in Jesus. It offers strong meat to them that are of full age; it goes on unto perfection. Let us approach this portion of the divine word with reverence, and with a deep sense of our dependence on the teaching and influence of the Holy Ghost. Our very weakness, and the peculiar trial of the present time, render this epistle more suitable to our need, and encourage us to hope that it will prove a word of exhortation to our hearts, establishing them in faith and love. Above all, let us bear in mind that, as the true difficulty throughout Scripture is our unwillingness to deny ourselves and to take up our cross, so this epistle, throughout, bears the inscription, "Outside the Camp." Every step of true progress is a step "outside the camp" with Jesus, who was crucified outside the gate. If we know the cross of Jesus, not merely as a doctrine, but a power of life, we possess the golden key which opens the treasuries of revelation.(7)

Jesus, the Son of God, exalted above all, infinitely high above us, and unspeakably near us in the power and sympathy of His High-priestly intercession, is set before us in this solemn and heart-stirring epistle. To look constantly and steadfastly unto Him, and with Him to be separated from the world, waiting for the glory of His second coming;—behold, here is wisdom and the patience of the saints.

 

Chapter 1. Comparison and Contrast Between the Old and New Covenant; the Perfect and Ultimate Revelation in the Son.
(Hebrews 1:1-4)
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
 

The first four verses contain, as it were, an epitome of the whole epistle, and therefore it will be necessary for us to dwell more minutely on their weighty sentences. We consider the first and part of the second verse: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by the Son."(8)

The great object of the epistle is to describe the contrast between the old and the new covenant. But this contrast is based upon their unity. It is impossible for us rightly to understand the contrast unless we know first the resemblance. The new covenant is contrasted with the old covenant, not in the way in which the light of the knowledge of God is contrasted with the darkness and ignorance of heathenism, for the old covenant also is of God, and is therefore possessed of divine glory. Beautiful is the night in which the moon and the stars of prophecy and types are shining; but when the sun rises, then we forget the hours of watchful expectancy, and in the calm and joyous light of day there is revealed to us the reality and substance of the eternal and heavenly sanctuary. Great is the glory of the old covenant; yet greater is the glory of the new dispensation, when in the fulness of time God sent forth His own Son and gave unto us the substance of those things of which in the old times He had shown types and prophecy. When the apostle says it is God, the same God "who spake at sundry times and in divers manners unto the fathers by the prophets, who hath in the last days spoken unto us by His Son," he confirms and seals the doctrine which was held by the Hebrews, that unto them had been committed the oracles of God; and that in the writings of Moses and the prophets they possessed the Scripture, which could not be broken, in which God had disclosed unto them His will—the counsels and purposes of His grace, "Unto them," as the apostle declares to us in the epistle to the Romans, "were committed the oracles" (or the outspeakings) "of God." And, as Jesus Christ Himself continually testifies, Moses and the prophets spake of Him. The Scriptures were that complete and infallible record of the revelation of God, from which all our knowledge of the grace and will of the Most High is derived.

This solemn acknowledgment of the fundamental importance and divine authority of the Scripture is from the very outset to gain the confidence and to establish the hearts of the Hebrew brethren. It is to give them the assured and trustful feeling of home. Thus the gospel narrative commences with a summary of Old Testament history, from Abraham to David and the Babylonian captivity, and to Jesus, the Immanuel predicted by Isaiah. Christ, or Messiah, is the comprehensive word, of which Moses and the prophets are the preparatory and expository heralds. The Saviour identifies Himself constantly with the Jewish Scripture—with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He, of whom the Jews confessed that He was their covenant God, was according to the declaration of the Lord His Father. And as the apostle of the Gentiles testifies to all churches, and most emphatically to the Church which was in the metropolis of the world, Rome, that unto Israel was entrusted the word of God, that Israel is the root, that the Jewish prophets and apostles are the foundation, so was it necessary and natural to remind the Hebrews that the God who spoke to their fathers was now speaking to them, that they heard the same voice, and were blessed by the same love.

"God hath spoken unto the fathers"; and by that expression "unto the fathers" the apostle reminds us that without a church, without a union of believers, without a manifestation of God in grace, historically, among a people whom He had set apart for His service, there would have been no Scripture; and that there was a congregation of the Most High from the very beginning of the world. "Unto the fathers" whom He had chosen that they might have fellowship with Him, that they might worship Him and rejoice in His name, God spake in old times, even as in the last times unto the Church—unto those who are called both from among Jews and Gentiles—He has made fully known His purpose in Christ Jesus.

This, then, is the great resemblance. The same God in the old covenant and in the new covenant. He spake unto His church or unto His people. The Father is the author of revelation in both. The Messiah is the substance and centre of the revelation in both. The glory of God's name in a people brought nigh unto Him, to love and to worship Him, is the end of the revelation in both. The two are one. Martin Luther has quaintly compared it to the two men who brought the branch with the cluster of grapes from the promised land. They were both bearing the same fragrant fruit; but one of them saw it not, yet he knew what he was carrying. The other saw both the fruit and the man who was helping him. Thus is it, that the prophets who came before Jesus testified of Him, although they did not yet behold Him; and we who live in the fulness of times see both the Christ of whom they testified, and themselves who were sent by God to witness of Him.

But let us consider the marvellous unity of the two covenants.

"God hath spoken." This is the first point. Oh, how little do we think of the grandeur and majesty and all-importance of this simple declaration, "God hath spoken." A living God and a loving God must needs speak. The god of the philosophers is a silent God, for he hath neither life nor affection; but our God, who created the heavens and the earth, who is and who loves, must speak. Even in the creation, which is an act of the condescension of God, He utters His thoughts; and when He created man as the consummation of the world, it was for this purpose, that man should hear Him and love Him, and should rejoice in His light and in His life. When sin enters into the world silence ensues. Man dreads God, and the melody of praise and prayer ceases; but the need of a revelation remains continually the same. God has created man, that out of the fulness that is in God, man may have living water wherewithal to satisfy his thirst. When man forsakes the fountain of living water he cannot get rid of the thirst, and he cannot divest himself of the nature with which God has endowed him; so that there is still within man the same absolute and utter necessity for a revelation of God from on high. He sees God's works in nature; he sees God's dealings in history; and when he examines his own mind, heart, and conscience, he reads there, although the letters seem almost obliterated, the record of the holiness and of the all-sufficiency of the only true and living God. Yet it is impossible for him to find in nature, history, or within himself that authoritative, living, and clear revelation and unfolding of the mind of God in which alone light and life can be brought to him. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man" (1 Cor 2:9) the things, which alone can satisfy the immortal spirit, whom God has created for the very purpose, that he should hear and with gladness obey the voice of God. Therefore it is necessary that God should speak.

And God does speak. It is a very simple declaration of Scripture that God has spoken, a grand truth expressed in simplest words, in order that we all may understand it. Often we read the words and do not realise what marvel of condescending love they reveal, what great and central mystery they unfold. "And God said to Abraham, to Moses, to the people of Israel." "The word of the Lord came unto the prophet." "Thus saith the Lord." Take a little child that has begun to think and to will, and even the thoughts and volitions of that little child remain an impenetrable mystery to you—an unknown land—unless that child chooses to express his thoughts and to utter his desires. And if this is true of a child, how much more is it true of Him who is unsearchable, the ever blessed and eternal God? Who knoweth the things that are in man except the spirit that is in man? And who knoweth the thoughts of God except the Spirit that is in God? For God's thoughts are not as our thoughts. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so much are God's thoughts higher than our thoughts. Who, then, can find out the Almighty by his own cogitations? or who can search the counsel of the Most High by the penetrating glance of his own intellect? Unless God speaks we do not know the thoughts of God.

But notice, secondly, man having by his own sin fallen away from God, and silence reigning now, it is only the infinite compassion and love of God that induces him to speak. If there was no redemption, there would be no revelation. If there was no blood of the Lamb, there would not be a single syllable uttered unto man by the Most High. It is because God is the God of redemption, that He is the God of revelation. It is because in Jesus Christ there is an atonement that God began to say to Adam in love, "Where art thou?" The love of the Father, and the blood of Jesus Christ, and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; behold, these are the three necessary foundations upon which the Scripture rests. God, the Triune Covenant God, hath spoken.

And that God hath spoken is a very awful thing, full of power and life. We have got accustomed to it, to believe that we have the thoughts of God embodied in His word, and that He who is almighty and ever blessed in Himself, and against whom we have sinned, hath in His infinite love uttered unto us the thoughts of His compassion and of His mercy; but God Himself is astonished at it, and commendeth His love, and saith, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken" (Isa 1:2). And saith again, "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa 55:10, 11). And again, that He has magnified His word above all His name. And again, that He will come as a Redeemer unto His people, and that He will manifest Himself unto them by speaking. "I who speak am He." "Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore they shall know in that day that I am He that doth speak" (Isa 52:6; comp. John 8:25). And throughout all the Scripture this wonderful indication is given unto us, that there is one who is the Word of God, and yet a person equal with Himself, the bearer of all His thoughts and purposes, His beloved, His only begotten Son. God hath spoken in old times unto the fathers by the prophets; fully and perfectly unto us by His Son. In both dispensations the same God, on account of the same sacrifice, impelled by the same love and for the same sublime and gracious purpose.

Both Old and New Testaments are of God; the New Testament as the Church-father Augustine said, is enfolded in the Old, and the Old Testament is unfolded in the New.(9) Nor can we, who live in the times of fulfillment, dispense with the record of the preceding dispensation.(10) As an old author writes:

"As the brilliancy of the sun appears far greater when contrasted with the darkness of the shade, so this epistle compares the light of the gospel with the shadows and types of the Old Testament, and by this means displays the glory of the gospel in full relief; for as shadows are images of bodies, so the ancient shadows are images of Jesus Christ, of His power and of His graces, and assist us to recognise more and more the substance and the truth; but from hence we derive also this additional advantage, that although the shadows of other bodies serve only to obscure them, the shadows of the Old Testament are so many reflectors, contributing light to the gospel."
But now let us consider the contrast. Jesus Christ was not born till four thousand years after the creation of the world. He came in the fulness of time. Why were so many ages allowed to elapse before the Word was made flesh? Herein also is revealed the condescension of God. When it is said that "in the fulness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a woman" (Gal 4:4), you must remember that this "born of a woman" refers also to the four thousand years, in which His goings forth were from of old to the whole history of the woman—of the daughter of Zion—of the Jewish nation. During all these years He who in the fulness of time came, and was born of the Virgin Mary, was going forth out of the human race—out of the chosen family—out of Israel, the covenant people of God, making Himself a little sanctuary unto us, as it were, condescending to our limited capacity, teaching us line upon line and precept upon precept, developing truth as the history of the nation developed. "At sundry times and in divers manners" did God speak unto the fathers by the prophets.

He chose prophets to be His messengers. The meaning of a prophet is one who is directly commissioned by God; one who, whatever his tribe, position, and dignity may be, is chosen by God according to His good pleasure, and is gifted with the Holy Ghost, and is entrusted with the message of God to utter it to the people. These three things constitute a prophet: direct commission from God Himself, gift of the Holy Ghost, and being entrusted with the very thoughts and words of the Most High. It is not merely by the prophets, that God spake. They were chosen not merely as the channels of separate and isolated revelation. God spake in them. They were the personal bearers of the message, the representatives and exponents of divine truth. Their words and typical actions were inspired, and in them the word of the Lord came unto Israel. When God in His infinite condescension sent prophets unto His people from the very beginning of the world (for by "prophets" we must understand all the messengers that God sent),(11) this was a great, good, and perfect gift in itself; and not only for one age, but for all generations, for the instruction and guidance of the whole Church.

Yet let us consider what were the imperfections of these messengers.

The first imperfection was this that—they were numerous; they were many. One succeeded another. They lived in different periods. Another imperfection was, that it was "in divers manners," in dreams, in similitudes, in visions, in symbols. Each prophet had his peculiar gift and character. Their stature and capacity varied. They were men of different temperament and tone of mind. The manner in which the revelation of God was given to them varied; even in the case of the same prophet the One Spirit appeared in various manifestations. Highest stands Moses, who therefore predicts, as in type so by direct announcement, the "prophet like unto me," to whom God spake not in vision, or in a dream, or in dark speeches (Deut 18:15; Num 12:7, 8). Another imperfection was that they were sinful men. When Isaiah beheld the glory of God, he said, "Woe, is me! for I am undone: I am a man of unclean lips" (6:5). When Daniel, the "man greatly beloved," enjoyed communion with God, he felt and confessed that he had sinned, and transgressed, and done wickedly. All of them, from the greatest downwards, were men full of infirmities and sins. Another imperfection was that they did not possess the Spirit constantly. Of a sudden, after a long pause, the Spirit of God came upon them. God spake unto them, and gave unto them His message. But it was not like a continuous river. The word came to them from time to time; they did not possess the word. Another imperfection was this, that of that message that was entrusted to them they did not understand the heights and the depths. They themselves had to search diligently, and to enquire what the Spirit that was in them did signify of the sufferings and glory that should come. Another imperfection was, that, as they did not understand adequately that portion of the message that was given unto them, they could still less comprehend and contain the whole message. They saw only one aspect of it, only one portion of it in connection with the peculiar history and the peculiar trials of the people at the period to which they were sent. Another imperfection was, that they all testified, like John the Baptist, "I am not the light. I am only sent to witness of the light" (John 1:8). They were only finger-posts directing the pilgrim, as he was in pursuit of the heavenly city, to go on further, until he would come to the pearly gates of the new Jerusalem.

We notice the imperfect and fragmentary character of the old dispensation, when we consider not merely the words, but the types, which are living prophecies. There was not a single one which could stand by itself, it had always to be supplemented. Abel shows to us that the righteous shepherd was to suffer and die; Enoch that the man of God would be lifted up into the heavens; Noah that there will be a Righteous One who will save not merely himself, but others, out of the destruction and judgment which sin draws down from a holy God. If we want to have an idea of the salvation of God we must combine the three—Abel, Enoch, and Noah—in one person; the Righteous Man, who suffers, saves, and enters into glory. Moses is a type of a mediator, prophet, priest, and king; but to obtain a view of the true Redeemer you must combine him with Joshua, for only Joshua leads the people into the promised land. Melchizedek is a priest and king, but we must combine him with Aaron in order to have an idea of atonement and of intercession, as well as of blessing and rule. David is a shepherd meek and lowly, a man who does not lift up himself above his brethren, and rules in love and in justice; but we must combine him with Solomon to get the idea of the kingship, both in its gentleness, sympathy, and suffering, and in its glory and extensiveness. Wherever we go we find it is in fragments. There is an altar; there is a sacrifice. There is a fourfold sacrifice, a sin-offering, a burnt-offering, a peace-offering, a meat-offering. There is a high priest; there is a tabernacle; there is a holy of holies; there is a candlestick; there is a shewbread; there is a veil. Everything a fragment; everything in itself showing unto us some aspect of truth, some portion of the treasure, without which we would be poor; but we must combine them all to see the full and blessed truth.

The old dispensation was imperfect. This is evident from the very fact that the message was sent in sundry fragmentary portions and in many different ways. It appears also from the nature of the chosen men, in whom the Lord spake. They were not merely finite and limited in their capacities, but sinful and fallen; and they witnessed of the perfect, ultimate, and all-comprehensive revelation of the light of Jehovah in the latter days. Great was the glory of the old covenant; for it was God who spoke. It was the Lord God of the covenant, of redeeming and sanctifying love, who for the sake of Christ and in Christ spoke unto His chosen people, and in the marvellous wisdom of His educating fatherly guidance taught them by a variety of types and of gradually unfolding prophecies.

But now the time of fragmentary, imperfect, and temporary revelation is past. God speaks to us now in another and more glorious manner.

Look now at the contrast. The whole contrast is in one word—in our language in one syllable—"by the Son." The prophets were many: the Son is one. The prophets were servants: the Son is the Lord. The prophets were temporary: the Son abideth for ever. The prophets were imperfect: the Son is perfect, even as the Father is perfect. The prophets were guilty: the Son is not merely pure, but able to purify those that are full of sin and pollution. The prophets point to the future: the Son points to Himself, and says, "Here am I." God has spoken to us "by His Son."(12) He is the only Prophet. God asks, "Who is like unto me?" To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? "Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being His counsellor hath taught Him?" (Isa 40:13). "With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?" (Isa 40:14). God asks proud man, "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (Job 38:4). Who is there that knows God, or is equal unto Him? None but the Son. He was with Him before the foundations of the world were laid. The eternal, uncreated Word was with God before the morning stars sang together and the angels shouted for joy. He is the true and faithful witness; for He speaks of that which He hath seen, and testifies of that which He knows. "No man knoweth the Father but the Son. No man hath seen the Father. The only begotten of the Father He hath declared Him." He is the true and faithful witness, whose testimony is co-extensive, if I may so say, with the counsel and the things of God: the Prophet whose mind is adequate to understand the mind of the Father. He is not merely the true and faithful witness because He is from everlasting, He is also the beloved of God. Notice this in the word "Son." "The only begotten," says John, "who was in the bosom of the Father," who is His treasure and delight, the infinite object of His love, in whom from all eternity was His rejoicing, who shares with Him all His counsels. This beloved one of God—oh, surely He is the true messenger who will reveal all the secrets of the Father's heart, and who will tell unto us all the fulness of His counsel, and all the purposes of His grace! God hath spoken to us by His Son.

Now contrast Him with the prophets. Were the prophets sinful? Behold our blessed Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Ghost, true man, yet growing up from His infancy in the love and fear and knowledge of God, without spot and blemish, not merely sinless but gifted with every perfection, showing forth true humanity according to the mind of God. Were the other prophets dependent upon momentary visits of the Holy Ghost? Look at Jesus. You never read in the gospels that the Spirit came upon Jesus, or that the word of God came unto Him. The Spirit was always in Him; for He had the gift of the Spirit without measure. The word of God was always in Him, abiding, living. Oh, how beautiful is that expression of the apostle Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Not, "Thou utterest the words of eternal life"; but, "Thou hast them: they are thy property, thy possession. Thou art Lord of the words, master of the words, fountain of the words." Notice again, the prophets say, "Thus saith the Lord." Jesus says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you"; and yet He spake nothing except what He heard the Father say; for He is the Son of the Father. The Son, and therefore equal; the Son, and therefore subordinate; yet whether the Father speaks or Jesus speaks, it is one voice, one love.

And not merely does He say, "Verily, verily, I say unto you"; but He Himself is His message. Not like the prophets does He testify of one that was to come after Him";(13) but He says of Himself, "I am the bread of life. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I give unto every one that cometh unto me rest and the water of life." And thus, dear friends, we ascend to the marvellous truth, that Jesus, the Son of God, not merely declares unto us the message of the Father, but He Himself is the message of the Father. All that God has to say unto us is Jesus. All the thoughts and gifts and promises and counsels of God are embodied in Jesus. He is the Light, the Peace, the Life, the Way, and the End. And this leads us still higher. How is it that the message and the gift are one? Because Jesus is the Word of God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). How mysterious and intimate is the union, how deep and essential the relation between the Son of God and the revelations of God in Him and in the Scripture! Christ, the Son, is the real, substantial, eternal Word, by whom the worlds were made, by whom all things are upheld, by whom God speaks unto us, and reveals His saving love. Christ is the Word of the written Word,(14) the substance and spirit, the centre and life of Scripture; and as the Word He quickens and blesses us with eternal blessings. How comprehensive and simple is the declaration, "God speaks in His Son."

Let me remind you how in the Son all the message of God is contained. I appeal to your remembrance of the teaching of Scripture. You who know the Scripture, and you especially who have come through the law unto the gospel, will understand me when I say that if the sinner knew nothing else but this, "God has sent a messenger, and this messenger is His own Son," he might discover in this the whole gospel, good news, glad tidings for, in order to send unto us condemnation, in order to give unto us the knowledge of our sin and of our desert, in order to send unto us the message of impending judgment, His own Son is not needed. Any angel would suffice for this work; any servant could proclaim this message. Moses is able to utter it; even our own conscience is sufficient messenger. When God sends His own Son into the world, when God makes the stupendous sacrifice of allowing His only begotten to take upon Him our flesh and blood, there can be only one meaning in it—SALVATION.(15) It can only have one purpose—our redemption. It can only have one motive, the overwhelming love of God. In the fulness of time God sent His own Son—to teach, to preach, to announce judgment? Oh, no, a thousand times no. God sent His Son to redeem us. Behold, I declare unto you tidings of great joy. Unto you is born this day a Saviour. Eternal life is in Christ Jesus the Son before the world began. These two ideas are always connected in the teaching of the apostle Paul—the law and time—that which passes away and man, the gospel and eternity, and the Son of God and the everlasting counsel. So Paul says "in promise of eternal life which God gave unto us before the foundation of the world," because it is not human, but divine; not temporary, but eternal; not connected with man and his works and efforts, but entirely and exclusively connected with the mission of the Son of God. God has spoken to us by His Son, and therefore we know that He has spoken peace to us.(16)

But notice, secondly, as the Sonship is the beginning of the gospel, so it is also the end and purpose of God's message. God, speaking to us by His Son, shows unto us that we also are to become the sons of God. He that receiveth a prophet in a prophet's name shall receive a prophet's reward; he that receiveth Him in a righteous man's name, a righteous man's reward; but he that receiveth the Son of God as the Son of God shall become a son of God. Jesus will give him power to become a son of God, born of the Spirit unto eternal glory. "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God" (1 John 4:15). Such is the marvellous declaration of the apostle John. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," was the confession of Simon Bar-jona. Jesus replies, "Flesh and blood have not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matt 16:16, 17). So great a thing is it for a poor sinner to know that the only begotten of the Father was made flesh and dwelt among us, and died for our salvation, that whenever any one among the Jews or the idolaters said, "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God," the apostles said: "Come, let us baptize him. What need we more? He has discovered the secret. The secret has been revealed to his soul. God has come to him: God dwelleth in him, and he in God. Let us baptize him." This is the rock upon which the Church is built—"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." God has spoken to us by the Son, and in knowing the Son we receive sonship, the adoption. And this is the peculiar glory of the new covenant, this the distinguishing feature of the Pentecostal Church. In the Incarnate Son the Father has brought many sons unto glory. The only begotten of the Father has, after His death on the cross, become the firstborn among many brethren. The Holy Ghost, coming through the glorified humanity of Jesus, unites us to Him, who is the beloved Son, and in whom the eternal and infinite love of the Father rests upon all His believing people. In the Son we know and have the Father; in the Son we also are the children of God.

Lastly, brethren, remember this is the ultimate revelation. There can be nothing higher; there can be nothing further. In "these last days" He hath spoken unto us. "Little children, it is the last time" (1 John 2:18). The Saviour testifies in the book of Revelation: "These things must shortly come to pass" (1:1). Surely, I come quickly. We are hastening unto the coming of Christ. Oh that we may know Him who is coming,—as the Son of God! If Christ is our life, then, when the Son of God shall appear, we also who are the sons of God—now in weakness, suffering, temptation—shall be made manifest with Him in glory. Amen.

 

Chapter 2. The Glory of the Son of God.
(Hebrews 1:1-4)
1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
We have considered the contrast between the Old and New Dispensation, which is brought before us in the words of the first and second verses, God speaking in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, and God speaking in these last days(17) unto us by His Son. When the apostle arrives at that word, "by His Son," he has reached the central and culminating point of all the revelations of God. The Son of God has come. In this all things are summed up. For what other purpose could the Son of God come but for salvation? Judgment, the preaching of the law, mere teaching, are works indeed high and important, but which may be executed by any creature chosen and sent by God. The message of law needs only human and angelic mediators. But when the Son of God Himself comes, surely it must be for the purpose of a new creation; it must be for the purpose of the manifestation of infinite love and boundless compassion, bringing deliverance and life. Again, if the gift is salvation, who else can bring it but the Son of God? Prophets have announced the will of God. Moses has declared unto us His holy commandments. By the law cometh the knowledge of sin and condemnation. By the prophets is kindled the hope of redemption. But no man, no angel, no creature, can restore us. If we know the depths of the fall, we know also the grandeur of the remedy that is needed. As soon as we hear the Son of God is come, we may expect salvation; as soon as it is announced to us that salvation is to appear, we may expect none but the Most High can bring it; for Jehovah is Redeemer; He only is our salvation. Not like a gift from heaven, as sunshine, and rain, and bread; not as a servant, or angel, or messenger, does Jesus come to this earth, but the Son of the Father, equal with Him in glory and majesty; the Lord from heaven, unto whom all things belong, who abideth in the house for evermore. Thus was it that the apostle Paul, from the very commencement of his Christian life, from the very moment of his conversion, saw these two ideas combined. He is Lord from heaven above all; He is Jesus, who died for the sinner, and identifies Himself with the church. And therefore, throughout all his epistles, as throughout the whole experience of the children of God, these two wonderful facts are seen together. How can we sufficiently adore Him who is the Son of God! How can we sufficiently love Him who shed His precious blood to deliver us!

The moment he says "the Son," the apostle has reached a mountain-height from which a vast and most extensive view opens before his eye. We are accustomed, in the epistles of the apostle Paul, to have him take us, with the mighty wings of faith and love, unto high, lofty peaks, and show unto us the wonderful land of Immanuel, boundless and infinite, as well as full of beauty and sweetness, and perpetual harvest.

Thus is it in the epistle to the Ephesians, where he begins by ascribing praise to God the Father, who hath "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (1:3). Having gained this wonderful position, "with Christ Jesus in the heavenly places," he shows unto us the eternity before the foundation of the world, when God chose us in Him; and he points out to us the ages that are to come, when God shall be glorified in Christ Jesus, and in the church whom He has given unto His Son, when we who first trusted in Christ shall be to the praise of the glory of His grace. Thus is it in the epistle to the Colossians (chap 1:14-29 ). The moment he speaks of the redemption which we have through faith in the blood of Jesus, He opens unto us the glory of the Lord Jesus who died for us, and leads us back to the very beginning of things, when all things were made in Him, and to the end of things, when all things shall be summed up in Him. God's eternity has become our home. All things are ours, because in Jesus we behold the Son of God.

But accustom yourselves always, when you hear of Jesus, to think of Him as divine and human—two natures in one person. When you hear of the Son of God, think of that glorious and loving One who was born of the Virgin Mary; who lived for thirty-three years upon earth in poverty and lowliness; who died upon the accursed tree; who rose with the self-same body out of the grave, and appeared unto His disciples, and spoke unto them, and ate with them broiled fish and of an honeycomb; who ascended in His body into heaven, and who shall so come again—the man Christ Jesus, the Son of God—to reign upon the throne of His father David, and to show forth the majesty and the love of God throughout all His creation.

It is of the incarnate Son of God that the apostle speaks; and showing unto us His glory, he leads us, in the first place, to the end of all history, He is appointed the heir of all things; (2) to the beginning of all history, in Him God made the ages; (3) before all history, He is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His being; (4) throughout all history, He upholdeth all things by the word of His power.

(1) The end of all history. The Father has appointed the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, the heir of all things. Him, the Son of Abraham and the Son of David, the theocratic Son, the Messiah; not in His abstract Deity, but as the Son who became man; as the Word made flesh; as the Lord God, visiting and redeeming His people; as the Son who became the servant to fulfil all Jehovah's good pleasure. Thus He promised unto Abraham that his seed should be the heir. Thus He promised unto the Son of David, who is also David's Lord, and the only-begotten of the Father. "Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost ends of the earth for thy possession" (Psa 2:8). He ratified it through all the prophets; and finally the angel who appeared unto the Virgin Mary declares unto her that the holy child shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Judah for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end. The Father hath appointed Him, in the everlasting covenant, according to the good pleasure of His will, in the infinite love and delight which He had to Him who is. His equal, to be "heir of all things" (Heb 1:2). What great expressions these are in Scripture! What wonderful conceptions, far transcending any thing that men ever could have imagined!

The Old Testament speaks of heaven and earth, summing up all things by these two words. The New Testament speaks of the creation of God—all things which He by the word of His power and in His wisdom hath called forth; or it speaks of the ages—ages upon ages, worlds upon worlds, in which the manifold fulness of the divine thoughts come gradually into existence. All things He hath given unto Jesus to inherit;(18) as the Messiah, the theocratic Son, according to the promise to the fathers, and this only on the basis of His eternal and essential sonship. Because He is the Son of God, therefore is He the Messiah. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hands" (John 3:35). According to His deity there is no necessity for any gift, reward, or transfer. According to His deity incarnate, the Messiah, in the everlasting covenant, is appointed Heir, and all things are given into His hand.

What are these "all things"? It is clear that there is nothing excepted that is not given unto Him. So said the risen Saviour,—"All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth" (Matt 28:18). In His intercessory prayer before His sufferings He had said, "Thou hast given Him power over all flesh" (John 17:2). This is the first thing. The whole human race is given unto Him. Since He took upon Him our flesh and blood, God has given unto Him the whole human race power over all flesh. And out of this whole human race, which belongs unto Him by eternal right, and by the right of His incarnation, by the right of His perfect and holy humanity, by the right of His unspeakable love, and of His death,—out of this whole world of humanity God has chosen in Him a people, that the Son should give eternal life to "as many as thou hast given Him." "Thine they were, and thou gavest them me" (John 17:2, 6). All these are His in a special sense. That innumerable multitude which no man can number from among all nations, peoples, and kindreds, and tongues—the chosen family in whom God has manifested His love, who have been renewed by the Holy Ghost, who have been washed in the blood of Jesus, who have been trained, educated, sanctified—all the lively stones, who by the Spirit have been built on the only foundation, who have been chiselled, beautified, perfected by the all-loving Divine Spirit, through experiences and sufferings most precious, appointed by perfect wisdom and grace, who have become the members of His wonderful mystical body, they all are His. He not merely rules over them; He lives, He moves in them. He thinks, and they think; He feels, and they feel. His will is the power which energizes in them. As a man who is in perfect health and strength has control over all the members of his body, so the whole church is the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, each member in his separate sphere, each according to his peculiar preparation and gift of nature and grace, each shadowing forth some feature of Christ's beauty, and echoing some syllable of the Divine Word—all perfect, all beautiful—organized into one harmonious, living, and glorious whole—"the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph 1:23). They belong unto Jesus. God has given us unto Him as His inheritance.

And this church Jesus Christ has obtained as the first and central part of His inheritance. As the material sun is placed in the firmament to be a source of light and heat and joy unto the rest of the creation of God, so God appoints the church to be the first-fruits of His creatures—the body of Christ, wherewith He influences and blesses, whereby He guides and controls all things. Even over angels they shall rule: even unto powers and principalities more ancient and majestic than our race He shows forth by them the good pleasure of His will and the fulness of His counsel and love. And the material creation which God hath made in Jesus Christ He hath also given unto His Son, that Jesus, through the glorified church, and by the angels in heavenly places, as well as through Israel and the nations dwelling on earth, should be glorified in the whole realm, which is His portion and His inheritance. How rich is our adorable Jesus! The blessed Lord, when He was upon the cross, had nothing. He had not where to lay His head; even His very garments were taken from Him. He was buried in a grave which belonged not to Him or to His family. On earth He was poor to the very last; none so absolutely poor as He. He rose again, and then declared that all power is given unto Him by the Father in heaven and in earth. He has appointed Him the "heir of all things" (Heb 1:2). As man, He is to inherit all things; as Jesus, God and man in one person. All angels, all human beings upon the earth, all powers in the universe, when asked, "Who is Lord of all?" will answer, "Jesus, the Son of Mary." Our poor earth, Bethlehem-Ephratah, little amidst the thousands of this world, has been chosen that out of us should come He who is the heir of all things.

"All things." Nothing shall be lost. You remember that apparently startling word in the parable of the talents, "Take from him that hath the one talent, and give it unto him that hath the ten talents" (Matt 25:28). What is the meaning of it? What ever has been dispensed in the kingdom of grace—whatever seed has gone forth from the divine sower—whatever thought, whatever beauty, whatever element that is valuable, and good, and true—can never be lost. The unfaithfulness of man will never lose it to Jesus and to His beloved church. It must remain in the family; it must be secure and permanent. The one talent that the unfaithful steward did not use is not to be wasted and to be lost unto the commonwealth; but it is to enrich the chosen people; for all things are given unto Jesus. He has appointed Him heir of all things.

And lest any one should mistake or misinterpret the truth of God, as if any passage in Scripture encouraged the hope that all beings should be finally brought unto happiness and into the love of God, let us remember that the "all things" includes also that dark and fearful region of which we know so little (enough only to be filled with terror and dismay)—that awful region where the light and the love of God can never penetrate, where there is uttermost darkness. Even under the earth, in hell, in the abyss, Jesus has power (Phil 2:10). He has power over death, and shall ultimately destroy it. He has power over Satan, and shall ultimately bruise him under our feet, banish him and imprison him where he can no more send forth the influences of sin and of injury. And all everywhere—friends and foes, saved and lost—shall acknowledge that Jesus is Lord; for He who has power in heaven and on earth has also the keys of Hades and of death. He is "appointed heir of all things."

All things are His. And this is so natural; because, in the second place, God has made "all ages," or "all worlds,"(19) by Him. It is natural that He who is the Alpha should also be the Omega. Scripture teaches us creation as the work of the triune God. God is triune, and therefore in everything that God does we behold the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. You read, in the first article of the creed, of God, the Creator of heaven and earth; in the second, of Jesus as the Redeemer; in the third, of the Holy Ghost. But as in Jesus, the Redeemer, we must behold the Father, even as we receive through Him the Holy Ghost; as when we speak of the Holy Ghost we must behold the Father and the Son, of whom the Spirit testifies, and by whom He is sent; so when we think of the Creator, we must not think merely of the Father, but we must think of the Word by whom and the Spirit through whom all things were made. "The Word was with God" (John 1:1), equal with God, and in love and continual intercourse and communion with the Father. And this Word was the beginning of the creation of God (Rev 3:14; Col 1:15-18), Himself eternal and uncreated; that is to say, in the Son of God all the creation was planned and summed up from all eternity. In Him was life; in Him was light; and God in Him beheld all things that were to come into existence. He is before all things (not merely as before and above time, but) as the idea and cause of all things. He is that eternal wisdom of which we read in the book of Proverbs, which was with God before the foundations of the world were laid. God has made all things by Christ according to Christ, and for Christ. What more natural, then, that He by whom and in whom all things were made should be also the inheritor of all things?

(3) But the apostle goes still further. Before all history He is "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His being" (Heb 1:3). Wherever He looks He sees Christ, the light. Without Christ, there is darkness. Think of the end of history, and you are lost in amazement; think of the beginning of the world, and you are lost in ignorance; think of before the beginning, and you are altogether lost in an element transcendent and incomprehensible, because it is not for our finite minds to contemplate such wondrous heights until the heavenly, divine light of revelation comes to our aid. And who is the light? Christ is the light. The eternal, infinite God reveals Himself in Christ. The Son is the light, which maketh manifest; God is manifest in Him. Christ is "the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His being." By the glory of God, His own inapproachable, infinite light is understood.(20) We must not imagine that Jesus Christ is the light illumining something which is not light; for God is light. The Father is light, yet not to us without the mediation of the light, which is Christ. Without Christ He is darkness by excess of brightness. It is because that Sun is so exceeding glorious, so exceeding bright, so exceedingly unbearable in its majesty, that it shines forth in another sun—and yet not another, but one with Him—which God, in His wonderful wisdom and power, hath given unto all worlds; that in this sun they may behold the brightness, the effulgence, the outflow of His glory. The glory of the God of Israel appeared between the cherubim; the tabernacle itself was called the glory; and when the tabernacle was removed, God's people exclaimed, "Ichabod"—the glory has departed. These were symbols, but when Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, we beheld the glory of the only-begotten—the glory of God in the face of His Son Jesus Christ.(21)

And this brightness of the glory is the express, substantial, true, living image of His being; so that he that seeth the Son seeth the Father. In Jesus we behold infinite power, wisdom, goodness, holiness, compassion, truth. All things that are in the Father are in the Son. The divine substance is revealed to us in the Son, who is the image of the invisible God. It is as the Son that the eternal life, which was with the Father, was manifested unto us. He who declares unto us God, whom none hath seen, the Word, is God (John 1), He is truth, substance; and the beloved disciple testifies of Him: He is the true God and eternal life.

And as the Lord Jesus is the heir, the end and consummation of all things and the beginning of all things, and the eternal Word before all things, the apostle Paul tells us (4) that throughout the course of history, in providence, he beareth all things with the word of his power.(22) If it was not for Jesus and for the atonement, if it was not for the Lamb foreordained from the foundation of the world, the history of this world would never have been continued after the fall of man. The reason why God in patience and long-suffering continues the ages, delays judgment, and sends forth the gracious and life-sustaining influences of His Spirit to arrest the process of decay and disintegration ushered in by sin, is that Jesus the Lord is the restorer; and it is the good pleasure of the Father's will to reconcile in Him all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His Cross. But not merely are all things upheld for the sake of Christ, but also through and in Him. He by whom all things were made is the life of all things. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I also work" (John 5:17). He is the inherent energy, truth and beauty of all things. He is as it were the spirit, the symmetry, the logic and substance of all that exists. By Him princes rule and senators decree justice. In Him every truth is rooted. By Him everything that is firm stands. By Him all things are continued; for He is the Word of God—the expression of the eternal thoughts and truths of the Most High.

Although the history of Israel is in many respects unique, yet it is also to be viewed as a specimen of the history of all mankind. If we had an inspired record of the history of nations, we should see that in all history Christ is the centre and the moving as well as the upholding power. Moses saw from the beginning that the heathen would not possess this light of knowledge, and would ascribe to themselves what is manifestly only the work of Jehovah (Deut 32:27-38). Thus it happened literally in the case of Ashur, which ought to have recognised the hand of Jehovah in their victory over the surrounding nations and their gods, as well as over Israel and Juda, but who ascribed glory to themselves, and boasted in their praise (Isa 10:8-15). The examples of Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Cyrus show how the heathen might have traced the guidance of Jehovah in their own history.(23) It is easy for us to see how the great victories of the Greeks, by which they conquered the Eastern Power, before which the whole world trembled, how the establishment of the Roman Empire, and the unity and communication thereby established among many nations, how all the great movements of the past were subservient to the spread of Christ's gospel and the gathering of His church. All nations must be evangelised (Matt 24:14); and hence doors, which for centuries seemed hopelessly closed, are opened through events which apparently are quite secular in origin and spirit, but which are only instruments in the hands of Him who openeth, and no man shutteth.(24)

It is the Lord Jesus who is moving all things, carrying on by His wisdom and power the development and progress of all things, restraining and overruling, guiding and blessing, that the purpose of God may be accomplished, and that ultimately the kingdom may come.

Christ is Lord of all The whole universe centres in Him. A star appears at the time of the Messiah's advent. The sun loses his splendour when Jesus Christ dies upon the cross. There shall be again wonders and signs in the heavens when the Son of man shall come in power. In the material world we know that there have been many and great cycles of development. And both science and revelation teach us to look forward to a new earth. It is the Lord Jesus who shall make all things new. And all developments are borne up and moved by the word of His power. Oh, I know that the general conception which the world has of Jesus is that He is Lord of a spiritual realm, of thought and sentiment, bishop and head of ministers and pastors for edifying souls! But the world does not know that He is moving all things by the word of His power; that all politics, all statesmanship, all history, all physics, all art, all science, everything that is—all that has substance, truth, beauty, all things apart from that cancer of sin which has attached itself to it, consist by Jesus the Son of God.

Now, when the apostle has given us this idea of the wonderful glory of the Lord Jesus, the Son whom God has appointed Heir of all things, by whom He has made the worlds, who is "the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His being," who "upholdeth" and moveth "all things by the word of His power" (Heb 1:3), He continues by stating something still more marvellous. Why has this wonderful and glorious being, in whom all things are summed up, and who is before all things the Father's delight and the Father's glory; why has this infinite light, this infinite power, this infinite majesty, come down to our poor earth? For what purpose? To shine? To show forth the splendour of His majesty? To teach heavenly wisdom? To rule by His just and holy might? No! He came to purge our sins. What height of glory! what depth of abasement! Infinite is His majesty, and infinite is His self-humiliation, and the depth of His love. What a glorious Lord! And what an awful sacrifice of unspeakable love, to purge our sins by Himself!

Sin has brought Him down from heaven. Our defilement has drawn Him from the height of His glory. Oh, what an expression, what a climax! "Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His being, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins."

Sin may be viewed as a transgression of God's good, just, and holy law, deserving punishment, and bringing down the curse of God. Sin may be viewed as a disease unto death which requires healing. Sin is also defilement, and this view seems both the deepest and the most painful. Or perhaps we see most clearly and feel most painfully the difficulty, the utter impossibility, as far as man or angel is concerned, of being delivered from sin, and brought nigh unto the source of life, love, and blessedness.

Sin is a great and heavy burden. It is a departure from the Father's house into a far country. It is ingratitude and rebelliousness, yea, even hatred of God. Power can lift and remove a burden. Compassion can seek the wayward and lost sheep, and follow it across hill, and moor, and wilderness until it finds it. Grace can stoop to declare unto an enemy the message of peace and good will. But sin is defilement. It is that which is loathsome to God, which fills His inmost being with repulsion. Think of our sins as defilement. Think of their number, of their heinousness! Who will remove this fearful and utterly loathsome iniquity which separates us hopelessly and infinitely from God in His holy and righteous love? Who will touch the leprosy? Who can take it out of the way, and cleanse the sinners, so that they appear pure and spotless in God's sight? The Son of God came to make the purification of our sins; and this, oh marvel of marvels! by Himself. Not like the high priest in Israel, offering something as a sacrifice; not with the blood, the life of another, but by Himself. He came into contact with this sin. He was the only one who could properly understand the true nature, depth, and guilt of sin. God of God, Son of the Father, He perfectly sympathized with the Father in His loathing and abhorrence of sin; but having befriended us, and having become one with us, He could not bear the thought of our being lost. So this loathsomeness of our iniquity, as loathsome to Jesus as to the Father, He takes upon Himself, as Joshua the high priest is seen by the prophet Zechariah. Jesus, perfect in His love to the holy and righteous Father, perfect in His love to the sinful and guilty people whom He came to save, with infinite hatred of sin and with infinite love of the sinner, enters, alone and unassisted, into that awful wilderness where, as our substitute and sin-bearer, He feels the Father's face turned away from Him. As the expression of His agony, in which faith and love endured all things and triumphed, He utters the cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Psa 22:1; Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34). Then Jesus the Son of God purged by Himself our sins.

The manner and power of this purification form the subject of this whole epistle. But in this short expression, "By Himself He purged our sins," all is summed up. By Himself: the Son of God, the eternal Word in humanity. Himself: the priest, who is sacrifice, yea, altar, and every thing that is needed for full and real expiation and reconciliation. Here is fulfilled what was prefigured on the day of atonement, when an atonement was made for Israel, to cleanse them from all sin, that they may be clean from all their sins before the Lord (Lev 16:30). Thus our great High Priest saith unto us, Ye are clean this day before God from all your sins. He is the fulfillment and reality, because He is the Son of God. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). The church is purchased by the blood of Him who is God (Acts 20:28, with His own blood). Behold the perfection of the sacrifice in the infinite dignity of the incarnate Son!(25)

Sin is taken away. Oh, what a wonderful thing is this! When once you see that Jesus the Son of God died upon the cross, and purged your sins, and that because of His obedience unto death God hath exalted Him at His right hand, that, having effected by Himself this purification, He entered into heavenly glory, you have no more conscience of sin. You do not require day by day, as it were, to receive the forgiveness of your sins. You have been washed, you have been made clean, you have received full absolution and remission. Nay, more. In the heavenly sanctuary where Jesus is, sin no more can rise; and as you were crucified and buried with Him, so you are raised with Him, and seated together with Him in heavenly places. You need only to confess day by day, and with great humility, and contrition and sorrow, your continual transgressions and trespasses, that your feet may be washed. "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean" (John 13:10). But conscience of sin you have no longer. And although, as Christ becomes clearer and dearer, we see and feel more our sinfulness and unworthiness, although with increasing sorrow and mourning we confess our unbelief and ingratitude, we have no longer conscience of sin, the conscience is free from the burden, and purified from the defilement of sin. As forgiven and accepted, as pure and spotless, as worshippers within the holiest of all, we appear before God: in the light of His love we behold, and acknowledge our sin.

Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb that was slain, is our High Priest, our Righteousness.

What other—man-invented and appointed—priest will intrude here? What other sacrifice can be mentioned? What works, offerings, or tears of our own can be thought of? Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of man, by Himself hath cleansed us from our sins.

The apostle has thus spoken of the greatness of Christ. Why does Jesus reveal His majesty and His glory? Not that we should tremble, and not merely that we should reverence and adore, but that our hearts should be drawn out to Him in love. The words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 11 are quite a parallel to our passage. Jesus first shows that no man knoweth the Father but the Son, and no man knoweth the Son but the Father, and that all things are given into His hands. Why does He say this? Why does He, as it were, exalt Himself, and reveal His dignity, and His divine authority over all creation? It is only that He may embrace us in His arms; it is only that He may add immediately, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28). Oh, the more majestic and glorious Jesus appears to us, the sweeter will be our peace, and the more childlike our confidence! This great, this infinite, this glorious Jesus was attracted by your very sin, and by your very guilt, and by your very helplessness. It was to purge our iniquities that He came down from heaven. Let us know, that we have obtained mercy, and that we have received the forgiveness of our sins, even through the redemption by the blood of Christ. Let us know it, that henceforth we may no longer be the servants of sin, that henceforth we may no longer walk in darkness; but, being delivered from all fear, and brought nigh unto God in Jesus, we may walk in love even as the Saviour God has loved us, and that we who have obtained mercy may show in our daily walk that we are merciful, forgiving one another, and forbearing one another, and introducing into every branch of our life and every sphere of our activity the new principle of love, even the holy, forgiving, and renewing love of God. Amen.

 

Chapter 3. Christ Above the Angels
(Hebrews 1:3-6)
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith,(26) And let all the angels of God worship him.
The opening verses of this epistle contain, as it were, a summary of doctrine.(27) They set forth the glory of the Son of God. We behold Him as the Christ, the true Prophet, in whom is the perfect and ultimate revelation of God; the true Priest, not merely fulfilling all that was prefigured by Aaron (who purged by Himself our sins), but also fulfilling that which was prefigured by Melchizedec, king of righteousness, at Salem, seated in heavenly glory, and crowned with majesty at the right hand of the Power on high, exalted above all angels and principalities. We behold in these verses the nature of Christ. He is the Son, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of the Father's being. We behold the work of the Son: by Him all worlds were created; by Him all things are upheld; by Him the atonement was made; and as He is appointed the heir of all things, history shall find its consummation in His manifestation and kingdom. And here we behold also the exaltation and the future glory of the incarnate Son, given unto Him as the fruit of His obedience. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and all things are put in subjection under Him.

Is it more wonderful to see the Son of God in Bethlehem as a little babe, or to see the Son of Man at the right hand of the Father? Is it more marvellous to see the Counsellor, the Wonderful, The mighty God, The Prince of Peace, the everlasting Father, a child born unto us, and a Son given unto us—or to see the Son of Man, and in Him the dust of earth, seated at the right hand of God? The High Priest entered once a year into the holy of holies; but who would have ventured to abide there, or to take up his position next to the Cherubim, where the glory of the Most High was revealed? But Jesus, the Son of Man, ascended, and by His own power, and in His own right, as well as by the appointment of the Father, He is enthroned, crowned with glory and majesty. On the wings of omnipotent love He came down from heaven; but to return to heaven, omnipotence and love were not sufficient. It was comparatively easy (if I may use this expression of the most stupendous miracle) for the Son of God to humble Himself, and to come down to this earth; but to return to heaven, it was necessary for Him to be baptized with the baptism of suffering, and to die the death upon the accursed tree. Not as He came down did He ascend again; for it was necessary that He who in infinite grace had taken our position should bear and remove our burden and overcome our enemies. Therefore was His soul straitened to be baptized with His baptism; and therefore, from the first moment that He appeared in Jerusalem, He knew that the temple of His sacred body was to be broken, and He looked forward to the decease which He should accomplish on that mount. Not as He came did He ascend again; for He came as the Son of God; but He returned not merely as the Son of God, but as the Son of God incarnate, the Son of David, our brother and our Lord. Not as He came did He ascend again; for He came alone, the Good Shepherd, moved with boundless compassion when He thought of the lost and perishing sheep in the wilderness; but He returned with the saved sheep upon His shoulder, rejoicing and bringing it to a heavenly and eternal home. He went back again, not merely triumphing, but He who had gone forth weeping, bearing precious seed, who Himself had been sown, by His sacrifice unto death, returned, bringing His sheaves with Him. There had been given unto Him in His resurrection the Bride, the Church; she was raised with Him to be seated with Himself in heavenly places. It was when He had by Himself purged our sins that He sat down at the right hand of God; by the power of His blood He entered into the holy of holies; as the Lamb slain God exalted Him, and gave Him a name which is above every name.

"The Father said unto Him, Sit thou at my right hand" (Psa 110:1). But it is equally true that the Lord Jesus Himself ascended, entered into the most holy sanctuary, and took His place at the right hand of God. He sat down: this expression shows that it was not merely the exaltation by the Father, but His own act and right; for Scripture is careful to teach us not only the subordination of the Son, but also His equality with the Father. Thus are we taught that the Father raised up Jesus, and also that Jesus had power to lay down His life, and He had power to take it again: "The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep"; "No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:11, 18).

For this purpose the Son of God came down to earth, that through suffering, and after having purged our sins, He might return to glory, that in His transfigured humanity He should have the glory, which as the Son He had with the Father before the foundation of the world. The cross was the only way to the throne. The session at the right hand of God is spoken of in Scripture exclusively as of the Messiah, the Son of David, the Lord, who is God and man. And now, the God-Man, the Son of God incarnate, Jesus who is the Christ, being exalted to the right hand of the Father, the apostle teaches us that God has given to Him a more excellent name than the angels, and that He has obtained this name by inheritance. He does not speak here merely of the Son of God in His deity; for if He spoke of Him as the Son of God merely, would it not only be superfluous, but would it not be also blasphemous and irreverent, to speak of Him who is Lord over all as greater than the angels? But when he speaks of Jesus the Son of God and the Son of Man, then is it necessary, salutary, and comforting for us to know that this Jesus, who was born of the Virgin Mary, formed in fashion as a man, in all things tempted like as we are, yet without sin, that Jesus in His humanity is now exalted, and that a name is given to Him above all angels. We who live in the West think a name of slight importance; but God always taught His people to attach great importance to names. The first petition in the Lord's Prayer is, "Hallowed be Thy name"; and all the blessings and privileges which God bestowed upon Israel are summed up in this, that God revealed unto them His name. The name is the outward expression and the pledge and seal of all that a person really and substantially is; and when it says that the Son of God has received a higher name than the angels, it means that, not only in degree, but in kind, He is high above them. He has obtained it by inheritance; that is to say, God decreed from all eternity to give that name unto Him, as the Son and Mediator.

In the book of Revelation we are told that the Son has a name which no man knoweth. There is an infinite, incomprehensible depth and mystery in the Son as there is in the Father; and as no man knoweth the Father save the Son, so no man knoweth the Son but the Father. But an excellent name, a name which is above every name, has been revealed unto us; and such is the loving-kindness of God, that Christ's highest name and His sweetest name are identical; even Jesus, "who saves His people from their sins."

Now, in order to prove this truth, the apostle reminds the Hebrews of a number of passages in which the Messiah is spoken of. And here let us briefly consider the method according to which the quotations are given. We must notice that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews always quotes the Scriptures as the Word of God. He does not say, as David says, or as Isaiah says, or as Moses says, but whenever he quotes from Moses and the prophets he always quotes their words as the words of God, or "as the Holy Ghost saith," or "as One saith"; because among the Hebrews it was well known and firmly believed that "all Scripture was given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim 3:16), and that every word of God is pure. Our Saviour, when He quotes the Scriptures, sometimes says "the Scripture," sometimes "the prophets," sometimes "David," sometimes "Isaiah." And so also the apostles do not always introduce quotations from Scripture in the same manner. The human and the divine character of the word must both be acknowledged and remembered. According to the spiritual condition of the persons addressed, and according to the purpose of the speaker, is the manner in which the words are introduced as God's or the words of Moses, &c. Sometimes the words, which are manifestly the utterance of Jehovah, are quoted: Well doth Isaiah say, and Isaiah is very bold, and this both by the Lord Jesus and the apostles. So fully and freely is the human channel in all its individuality and spontaneity acknowledged, though the divine authority and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost are always maintained and presupposed. Our Lord appeals even to the books of Moses as "your law"; when Israel does not recognise the Word incarnate, He refers them to the document which they held as their own, and in which they trusted, not knowing its power and spirit. To him who has not the word abiding in him, the books of Isaiah, Matthew, Paul, are simply the writings of these men. To us they are the word of God. In this epistle all quotations are traced direct to the Lord Himself, thus corresponding with, and carrying out, the key-note struck in the first verse of this epistle: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son."

Jesus, after His resurrection, opened unto His disciples the Scriptures. He spoke of Moses and of the prophets, and specially mentioned the Psalms; and we read, "Then opened He their understandings that they might understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45); and after the day of Pentecost the Holy Ghost brought all things to their remembrance, all the words and instructions He had given to them; and we see from the Acts of the Apostles that they saw, as it were, the whole edifice of Scripture in the grandeur and symmetry of its structure. Now they were full of light. These very men who before were not able to understand what they saw with their own eyes, still less to comprehend His words, remembered and understood now that all these things happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled (John 2:22, 20:9). The infallible instructions of the Son of Man were brought back to their remembrance by the Great Teacher's aid. And shall we not therefore attach the greatest value and the greatest importance, as well as the most implicit and docile faith, to the explanations given in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Epistles, and in the Revelation, of quotations from the Scriptures? We are bound by a blessed tie to their interpretations.(28)

David is called a "patriarch" on account of the position which he held in the history of Israel; a "prophet" because, as he tells us, "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue" (2 Sam 23:2). But he was also a type in his own character and history of that One who was to come. Many people read the Scriptures without considering the perspective of Scripture. It appears to them as a picture, so to speak, upon a flat surface, in which there is no perspective; they do not see the gradual unfolding and development; they do not perceive the historical basis upon which prophecies rest, and the varying shades and tints which their peculiar position and distance in reference to the fulfillment gives them. They do not remember that the Lord Jesus Christ had His goings forth from of old, from everlasting; that His condescension goes back far into the ages, and that the whole Jewish nation was, as it were, the mother out of which the Messiah proceeded. Thus their history not only contained prophecy, but their history is prophecy. The evangelist Matthew gives us the key to the whole Jewish history in the first chapter, when he tells us that the infant Jesus was taken by Joseph and His mother Mary into Egypt, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my Son" (Matt 2:15). Israel and Israel's history are typical; they are installments as well as shadows of the great history.

It is very wonderful how, in God's ways, fixed necessity and liberty go hand in hand. In a way which we cannot understand, but which we can admire and adore, God's counsel must stand fast; while His people act and move in perfect liberty, and His enemies are left to freedom and dealt with in patience and justice. From all eternity Jesus is appointed the Son of David; but the development of history goes through liberty, the exercises of faith, of hope, of patience, of love, of joy, of suffering. Everything that is human is in sweetest harmony with that unfailing and unchangeable purpose of God's love which must surely come to pass, even as in the greatest sin—the crucifixion of our Lord—the determinate counsel of God was fulfilled; and yet it was "with wicked hands," and of their own free choice, that the Jews crucified the divine and loving Saviour. This same blending of liberty and necessity is seen in the history of the patriarch. By a free choice of faith Abram, who was chosen to be the father of Israel, and of all who are blessed in the Messiah, left his father's house, and followed God. By faith he received the promise of Isaac, and, as a reward of his implicit confidence in the truth of God and in his death-conquering power, the eternal promise was renewed and sealed to him. And the inward clinging of the soul to the word of the Redeemer God, which amidst many struggles and failings characterized Jacob, who is Israel, breaks forth, interrupting the inspired (objective) predictions, when on his death-bed he exclaims, I have waited for thy salvation. Quietly and gently God fulfilled His counsel, hidden as yet to David, when the son of Jesse was taken from the sheep-folds. He did not know the wonderful significance of that morning when Samuel came to his father's house, and all his brothers passed before him, and David, in the simplicity and unconsciousness of his youth, was chosen and anointed to be king over Israel. It took some time—it took many years of bitter sorrow, of painful conflicts—before the meaning of that act was explained to David himself. And at last, when through all the varied and profound discipline which he underwent, and by the inward teaching and the heart-renewing work of the Holy Ghost, God brought out in David, according to his limited and human measure, what in perfection is only in the Son and Lord of David, he went forth a true king of Israel—a man after the heart of God, strong in faith and love to the Most High, gentle and meek toward men, anointed by the Spirit, upheld by loyal and free Israelites, who loved him intensely and were willing to die for him, and yet not lifting up his heart above his brothers, but desiring to rule with the. righteousness of meekness, and to show forth judgment and truth; to found his kingdom upon the word of God, upon knowledge and light, justice and love, concord and brotherly affection; building his dominion more upon the hundred golden pillars (as we might call them) of the Psalms, founding his throne on the firm foundation of his union with all the godly in the land, of their harmony in the praise and joy of Jehovah. Think of him thus as a parable, as it were. Think of this shepherd king, by the grace of God and the loving and free choice of God-fearing men—a king whose power rests upon invisible pillars, not upon outward authority, and pomp, and splendour. He gathered round about him not that which was high and lofty and lifted up; he looked not, like Saul, to that which seemed strong and mighty, but to the meek of the earth, the excellent, who put their trust in Jehovah, those who knew how to praise and to serve the God of their fathers. Thus was David a true king after the heart and mind of God; and when he thought of building a house of God, then God sent unto him the prophet Nathan, and confirmed to him the promise, that as he was king over Israel, so his seed was to rule after him; that the throne of David was to be an everlasting throne. Of that seed of David it was also said that God would be a Father unto him,(29)

and he should be God's son. David is quite overcome with the condescension and love of God, and, being filled with the Spirit, he saw that Solomon was not the completion of this prediction, and that he to whom God had thus promised to be a Father was to be One infinitely greater and higher than himself or his own children; that God spake of that One for whom all the fathers looked, and waited as the revelation and full realization of God's salvation. I may say of David as it was said of John the Baptist—"He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light" (John 1:8)—He was not that King, but was sent to witness and to prefigure that King—the Son of the Most High. And thus, in all the sufferings and exaltations of David, in all the events and experiences of his life, he felt and saw that the lowest and deepest foundation of his own life was the Messiah, Christ Himself; that his own sufferings were ultimately to be fulfilled in the Son, who was above all. And therefore it is that in the Psalms of David we find David; his very heart and soul, the man himself; but we find also Christ. David and Christ are completely identified. David, according to his limited measure, is an installment of Christ. He is a type of Christ; and therefore that psalm which was an expression of David's experience, in which he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is also the expression of the experience which no finite mind can fathom; the Lord Jesus on the cross utters these very words! What marvellous poetry is here, not in words merely, but in life and history! What wonderful condescension! He who is Jehovah, David's Lord, is mirrored forth by the son of Jesse. David's Son is none other than the Son of God, and He shall rule over Israel for ever. "I will give you the sure mercies of David" (Acts 13:34). There is no other man in Scripture thus identified with Jesus Christ;(30) and therefore He is emphatically called "the Son of David." It is in this light that we must read the expressions quoted here by the apostle from the second psalm.

Most majestic is the book of Psalms. Very significant and striking is the commencement of this book, so grand and sweet, so precious to all the children of God, even as it was peculiarly near and dear to the Lord Jesus during His life on earth. The book of Psalms commences with two psalms, which have no superscription. The first chapters in the books of Scripture are often, as it were, the expressive announcement of the subsequent chapters; the countenance of the whole; the short, compressed key-note is struck; out of the abundance of the heart the inspired author seems to utter immediately the sum and substance of his commission.

In the first two psalms we have a summary of the whole book. The first word is Blessed, and the conclusion of the second psalm is, "Blessed are all they that trust in Him."(31) For God's thoughts are always thoughts of love. And though by reason of our disobedience, and the corruption of our heart, we cannot obtain the blessing which the law promises to all who keep it (Psalm 1), the promise of David's son was given in order to bring unto us new and greater blessing through the marvels of redemption (Psalm 2). As the apostle Peter said, "Unto you first, God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you" (Acts 3:26). All the thoughts and purposes of God toward His people are blessings.(32)

The psalmist represents in the second psalm all the world united against God; He describes their determined, inward, and zealous opposition to Him. He describes God in His holy calmness, in His quiet majesty. He has laid the foundation, He has ordered the method, rule, and triumph of His house from all eternity. He can afford to give centuries and thousands of years to His enemies to mature all their plans, to utter all their thoughts, to bring forth all their objections, and to try all their experiments. He is patient also, and long-suffering; not willing that any should perish, but that sinners should turn unto Him and live. But He has anointed His holy King. He has appointed One—that wonderful person, Who is His representative and the sceptre of His might—God and man, through Whom the power and the pleasure of the Lord are to be established on the earth. And this Son is now declaring to us the decree, the counsel according to the good pleasure of His will, the purpose which cannot be changed, the promise which standeth firm from eternity to eternity: "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee."

Now what this passage means is evident from the exposition given to us by the apostles. It refers to the resurrection of Jesus. He was the Son of God before the incarnation. We must ever hold fast the fundamental truth of the eternal, essential sonship of our Lord. It was the Son who was sent into the world, and given unto us by the Father. Thus Scripture teaches; and not that He who was sent and was born of the Virgin Mary thus and then became the Son. At the incarnation the Son of God became man (Gal 4:4). But the truth specially taught here is, that the Son of David, the Theocratic King, the Messiah, who is to subdue all ungodliness on the earth, and to exalt all who trust in Him, is "declared to be the Son of God with power" (Rom 1:4).

Let us consider the apostolic interpretations of this psalm. In the book of Acts (13:32-34) the apostle Paul, speaking of the resurrection, said: "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David." Here the general and comprehensive view is taken of Jesus as the Messiah and fulfiller of all God's promises; and the "to-day" of the second psalm is referred to the resurrection.(33) In like manner the apostle writes to the Romans, with evident reference to our psalm: "His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom 1:3,4). Analysing now the comprehensive term Messiah into its constituent parts—Prophet, Priest, and King—we notice, besides the above reference to His kingship, that Peter in his address to the Jews quotes the prophecy of Moses—"A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren" (Acts 3:22); even, as he says, that "God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you" (v 26). And as to the priestly office, Paul declares that Christ glorified not Himself to be made a High Priest, but He that said unto Him, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee."

Thus in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, when as Messiah He was fully brought into His prophetic, priestly, and regal dignity, was fulfilled the word—"Thou art my Son." Unto which of the angels said God this at any time? What angel has a name like this name? What angel can be compared with our Lord, the Man Christ Jesus, who was crucified and liveth for evermore?

The apostle passes on to another passage, which has no reference to the first coming, but to Christ's second advent, when God shall bring in again into the inhabited earth the First Begotten. The 97th Psalm speaks of the (return or) coming of Jehovah to the earth to subdue His enemies, and to be the rejoicing of His people.

The psalm commences with a call to the in habitants of the land, and to all the earth, with the multitude of isles, to rejoice at the coming of the Lord Jehovah, who shall reign and deliver the godly, and manifest His glory. It is the advent in which, as Zechariah almost in the same words predicts, Jehovah shall be King overall the earth (Zech 14). The period between the first and second advent is not beheld by the prophetic psalmist. The world during this interval seeth Jesus no more. He is hid. The heavens contain Him, and only His people see Him by faith, and know His presence by the indwelling Spirit. He is ruling the world; but He is not known, not recognized. But God shall bring Him in again, He shall bring Him into sight and manifestation. Not as the only-begotten, mark; for as the only-begotten He came in His incarnation (John 1), but as the first-begotten; that is, as the risen Lord, the second Adam, the first-begotten of the dead, the first-born among many brethren. Thus the prophet is supplemented by the apostle. Jehovah, of whom the psalmist speaks, is identified by the apostle with the risen Jesus, the Son of God. Now at His coming (the second, as we Christians know, not coincident with the first, as according to the prophetic perspective ancient Israel believed) the world is divided into the righteous, the upright in heart, who worship and love God; and idolaters, that serve graven images, and boast themselves of idols Just as in the Apocalypse we read the world is divided into the saints of God, and those who worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark upon their foreheads and in their hands.

The advent of Jehovah brings judgment and confusion to the idolaters, and a harvest of light and joy to the godly.

Now, bringing in the glorified Son, God the Father, who alone has the right to command creatures to perform acts of worship and adoration, saith unto the angels, "Worship Him."(34)

Thus is humanity in the person of Messiah exalted far above any creature. Thus the consummation of all history, and the perfect manifestation of God's glory to the rejoicing adoration of angels and men, will be in the Lord Jesus, who is not ashamed to call us brethren, who is one with us by a link which can never be severed.

Who then is like unto Jesus? Who like Him is adorable? Holiness and goodness are worthy of adoration only in their essence and source. He, whom holy angels are called by God to worship, must be essential holiness, goodness, love—must be none other but the infinite and eternal, the ever blessed and co-equal Son of the Most High.(35)

How near is Jesus unto us, although He is so high above us! This is the very reason why God has exalted Him. This is the reason why He is so high above everything, above all powers and dominions; that He who has all power and love may be visible and accessible; that every one may see Him, and draw near to Him; that out of the lowest depths we may behold Him; and that from the utmost corner of the land we may cry unto Him, and be saved. Jesus is exalted for the very purpose of being a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins. If Jesus was not so high, would He be so nigh? He who is omniscient, omnipotent, all-wise, all-loving, whose sympathy is full of human tenderness, is in the holy of holies for the very purpose that He may succour, comfort, and uphold us during the clays of our trial and sorrow, that He may be a present help in time of trouble. Jesus is exalted above all, that He may fill us with His power and love. He is high above us, that, looking unto Him, the author and finisher of faith, unto Him who through the cross entered into glory, seeing Him constantly above us, the Lamb in the midst of the throne, we may run with patience the race set before us. With all the holy angels and all the saints of God we look unto Him, we worship and rejoice as an old father of the German Church says—"Jesus is in heaven; therefore it is easy for a poor sinner to have his heart in heaven. Let Jesus dwell in the heart, and then heaven will be in the heart." Amen.

Next Chapter Table of Contents

This work is a derivative of a book available in the public domain.
This book has been edited.
Copyright 2007 JCR